During this past summer, I often found myself spending my nights on the porch of the room tucked behind the far right side of Swift Creek, quite a walk away from where I lived; the far left side of the same building. It was a chilly summer night like any other. The political debates devolved into debates about Netflix, and those debates devolved into debates on whether or not to call it a night and get to bed. Suddenly, we heard a low, dog-like growl around the corner behind us. But it wasn’t a dog.
“There’s a bear right f****** there,” said a member of our circle, peering around the corner. We scurried to have a look, just as the bear scampered into the bushes. “He was coming for your grill,” speculated the same witness. “He’s been going around licking everybody’s grills. He wrecked mine just a few days ago, wrestled it to the ground and mauled it. I saw him licking it on my porch. He just saw me, made a face and walked away backwards.”
Great. Not only was this bear hungry, it also didn’t give a damn about people. There was a great, hungry, badass bear looking for grills to lick in my neighbourhood, just around the time I had to go home. I slowly realized I probably had more meat on me than a grill. Packing up the last of my things along with my courage, I took a deep breath, said my goodbyes, and made made my way towards home.
I was halfway to my condo when my companion bid me goodnight and split off to his room. Now it was just me and a watchful, hungry bear on my long walk home. I closed my eyes to find courage, but all I saw were images of a bear barbeque, with the papa bear feeding his happy, wholesome bear family my grilled carcass. The thought that bears had no opposable thumbs to operate a barbeque did little to stem my furious, irrational terror.
And so, I began to sing to myself. This was all part of my battle plan– a song would instil the bear with fear of my coming, and instill me with the manly, martial courage of a ranger navigating his way home through the wilderness of the Swift Creek lawns. I took a deep breath in and let the song flow. But now I was pissed–not at the situation, but at myself. Of all the songs I was expecting to come out, my song sounded like elevator music.
“Doo-doo-dum-doo-doo-dum-dee-doo,” I sang as I trembled my way forward. I was expecting a ‘The Ride of the Rohirrim’ kind of thing, but it was too late–the bear had heard my elevator song and now knew of my weakness. At least if I stuck to this song he would know I was resolute, in both song and will to live.
I was nearly at the end of the walk. My song and pace picked up tempo. Soon I would be at my door. “I survived,” I thought to myself, but just as I turned the final corner my heart sank like a first year checking their meal plan balance at the end of the semester. The long corridor was decorated by the mutilated remains of my neighbour’s trash. The bag had been ripped in two, and the garbage that emerged from it had been clawed at and thrown down the porch.
“Please dear God help,” I said silently to myself. In the shadows of my porch I could make out movement. It seemed the bear had not eaten any of the trash, which I assumed meant it was still hungry. “Doo-doo-dum-doo-doo-dum-dee-doo,” my song raced as I burst through the moat of trash surrounding my room. “HOHGOD, HOHGOD!” I thought as the door closed behind me. Slowly, feeling and rational thought returned to me. My first thought: “man I need to pee.”
My second thought was a profound sadness for my most recent travel companion. As a result of our collective littering at Quest, this hungry, badass bear had been drawn into our kingdom of garbage and dirty barbeques. Trash acts on bears much as ‘lures’ work on Pokémon–except we’re not trying to catch bears. Now this bear risked being transplanted or even euthanized as a result of our carelessness. It never hurts to remind each other every now and again of the importance of not leaving garbage where wildlife can get to it. As far as I know, bears do not yet know how to use an elevator, so if you must leave your trash out please do it on the second floor.